culture Oh Christmas Tree: Digging Up The History Of A Seasonal Staple If you're enjoying your tree, you have Germany to thank. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
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When you really think about it, the tradition of chopping down a tree and bringing it inside to decorate it seems a bit strange. Nevertheless, it’s been a common theme in holiday decor for generations with no signs of slowing down.

So what led to the spread of this unusual trend? Here’s what we could find:

It all starts with Germany

Although certain cultures had placed greenery indoors to commemorate special occasions previously, Germans began associating trees with Christmas celebrations as far back as the 16th century.

That’s why the original version of “Oh Christmas Tree” (“O Tannenbaum”), which is an ode to the fir tree, is in German.

The tradition travels

During the reign of King George III in England, his wife, Queen Charlotte, introduced the previously Germanic tradition into late 18th-century British society. It started out small by hanging a branch around the holidays — but later on, she went all the way and erected a Christmas tree.

Her granddaughter, Queen Victoria, was almost singlehandedly responsible for making the concept go mainstream. When she was just 13, she heralded the fact that her gifts had been placed around the tree. Several years later, she married her German cousin, Prince Albert, which amplified the fledgling tradition in the U.K. and paved the way for it to spread even further.

Trees in the USA

In the mid-19th century, around the same time that Victoria married Albert, a growing number of Germans were immigrating to the United States. In addition to introducing a wide variety of new foods into the nation’s melting pot, they also brought with them their holiday celebrations — including, of course, the Christmas tree.

Tree farms didn’t start sprouting up immediately, but reports from as early as 1850 found that entrepreneurs were making money by selling them.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee December 24th, 2022
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